AMP Interviews with the biggest movers and shakers in the Apartment Management Industry
I love learning more about people beyond the surface. Everyone has a story! I prepared these 10 questions because these are ones that I find myself asking people at networking events because I’m not that great at small talk. I hope you have fun reading some of my favorite ice-breakers!
I love dissecting words and looking for greater meaning like the word Apartment. What sets you “Apart” and why are you “Meant” for the multifamily industry?
What sets me “apart” is my vision and tenacity. I’ve learned that if something doesn’t exist, go create it and let nothing stop you or get in your way. I think I am “meant” for this industry because I can’t leave it; I’ve tried! I call this the boomerang industry because once you leave, you’ll inevitably be back. The multifamily industry offers so much support and opportunity from some very genuine people who eventually become family. It’s really unparalleled.
How and when did you get your start in the industry?
At the age of 18, I was shopping for my first apartment and ended up moving into what was then Pine Hill Apartments in Wheeling, IL. I was so fascinated by the entire leasing process that I fired an insane amount of questions at the leasing consultant and hounded for her ways that I could get into the industry. I’m pretty sure she thought I was a nut job. A few months later, after finding any reason to continually go into the leasing office every weekend (pretending I had a package), the manager at the time, Tom Orchell, said “Tara, you’re down here every weekend talking and asking questions. How would you like to get paid for it?” I about fell out. It was then that the multifamily industry officially became part of my DNA. Not to brag but I was a darn good leasing consultant and later went from there to AMLI – what a cool transition!
What is one song that always puts you in a good mood?
Oh man, it’s impossible to narrow it down to one because I am a music fanatic and love so many genres. My favorites are: “Amazing” by One Eskimo, “Shine (live version)” by David Gray; “You Don’t Get Much (live version)” by The Bodeans; “Holocene” by Bon Iver (I cry every time I hear it); “Breathin” by Ariana Grande and “El Camino (live version)” by Amos Lee (go right to 3 minutes and 46 seconds of the song; I dare you not to get goosebumps!
What are 3 tips you would give someone considering a career in multifamily?
1) Dare to be different and learn your niche but don’t try too hard. I am a bit unconventional and will always strive to make someone laugh first. If you realize you’re first goal is to build genuine relationships, sales will come organically.
2) Remember the little things – birthdays, anniversaries, pets, kids, etc. Send out as many greeting cards as you can because while you’re doing that, the rest of the world is sending emails.
3) Remember we’re all human. In this day and age of technology, it is easy to slip into robot mode but remember, everyone you interact with is human too, has a story and deserves to be treated with kindness and sincerity.
What is your proudest moment in multifamily?
I have two. The first was when I was the first-ever Volunteer of the Year Award recipient from the Chicagoland Apartment Association. Back when the association was in Schiller Park, IL, I drove 45 minutes to their office (without an appointment of course) marched right in and exclaimed “I heard you have committees I can volunteer for. I would like to sign up for all of them!” I am pretty sure Pam Lohman (who used to work there and is now a good friend) wanted to test me for drugs! But…it paid off and if you know me, it completely describes my personality. The second is when I got the vision to start this group, A.M.P. Nothing like this existed so I decided to create it. I am forever grateful to my partners and attendees who support this group every month and continue keeping my networking vision alive! Mike Collins has probably been my biggest cheerleader since day 1 and I am eternally grateful for his encouragement and commitment.
Who is your mentor and why?
Forgive me but I have several and none of them know they are my mentors. First, Diana Pittro. She was the first multifamily industry powerhouse that ever crossed my path. The independent rental owner I worked for hired her to consult for our property and I literally thought she was a celebrity. If you haven’t met her, she has an insane amount of grace, knowledge, and passion and is someone you should add to your network…NOW! Second, my uncle Cliff Johnson. Like me, he went back to college later in life and let nothing stop him from achieving his goal. He is a successful businessman and is one of the few people in my life who has said he’s proud of me (and I am proud of him). Third, my mother-in-law, Cynthia Samuels. If you look up multifamily legend in Atlanta, you’ll find her face – EVERYONE knows her and loves her! She is always available to be my advisor but most importantly, she raised the man of my dreams. Fourth,my dad. He would never believe that he has had an impact on my life but he has taught me perseverance. He tries, tries and tries again until he gets it right but my favorite thing is that he loves hard, is really funny and always tells me how smart I am. We have the same humor and can laugh for hours! Fifth, Michael Fine. This man is the epitome of someone who always has your back. He is authentic and one of the smartest people I have ever met. He has some of the longest-lasting business relationships and friendships I have ever seen which is a testament to who he is at his core. Lastly, my husband, Rob. He is one of the smartest, most genuine people around. He is the epitome of a good role model for our kids and I love how much he loves his mom. He is my coach, partner and best friend and he will never really know the impact he’s had on my life. He is my person and if he’s not in your network, add him. He too is well-known in the multifamily industry.
What book has left the biggest impression on your life?
“Reflections of an Ordinary Man” by Thomas S. Bozzuto. Thanks to Chad Cooley, Managing Director, Strategic Support Services at Bozzuto, I now have an autographed copy. If ever there was a person who should receive an award for being an extraordinary human with exceptional character, it would be Thomas Bozzuto. Ironically, I have never met him but it is on my bucket list. In fact, I would love for him to be a speaker for an upcoming A.M.P. event!
In addition, one of the vows I have made to myself (no, not a resolution) is that I read more books. If you came to my house today, you might think I could open a newsstand with the number of magazines I have saved – “Entrepreneur” is one of my favorites as well as “HGTV” and “Magnolia Journal” which feed my creative soul. I love turning pages, saving ideas and being inspired.
If you ever owned an apartment community, where would it be and what would you name it?
My maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather are two people that forever own a piece of my soul. I would find undiscovered land on a beach somewhere and build a community named “Moxie” because it’s what my grandmother always said I have. To honor my grandfather, Tom, I would use textures, colors and smells that are as sophisticated as he was.
What is your most memorable vacation?
It’s a tie. My husband surprised me with a cruise (my first ever) where he popped the question with an exquisite ring designed by the most romantic man. I was so busy doing the ugly cry that I forgot to answer him. You could hear a pin drop as the entire restaurant waited for my answer! The other one is when we whisked our kids away on January 2, 2019, to the Ridges Resort in Georgia where just the 5 of us eloped and officially became a family. It was one of the best days of my life!
If our country went to 4-day work weeks, how would you spend your 5th day?
Journaling in the morning about what I am grateful for; who I want to pray for and what I want to thank the universe for. After giving thanks, I would spend the day with my husband, Rob, and kids Holden, Kendal, and Parker escaping from as many escape rooms as possible. We would then head to a beach to listen to the waves crash, throw the frisbee around at our picnic lunch while laughing and dancing ourselves into a state of oblivion and ending the night with a concert at Red Rocks. It’s ambitious, I know.
AMP Founder &
Chief Networking Officer